A lot of you seemed to like the post about London, so I thought I’d make a post about Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is the capitol city of Scotland, and my favourite city in the whole world. It also has connections to Harry Potter, which is why I wanted to write a post about it. I haven’t been since August of last year, but as I hadn’t started this blog at that point I couldn’t post about it then.
As for Edinburgh’s Harry Potter connection, it’s a pretty big one! JK Rowling used to live there when she started writing Harry Potter. One of the places she went to write was a little cafe called ‘The Elephant House’ that is still there now, and proudly advertises itself as the “Birthplace of Harry Potter”. The cafe can be found at 21, George IV Bridge (EH1 1EN), and has a website www.elephanthouse.biz
She apparently sat in a room at the back of the building with views of Edinburgh Castle, which explains why when I look at Edinburgh Castle I always think of Hogwarts, but I’ve read that Hogwarts is actually roughly based on George Heriot’s School which is nearby. The first time I saw it [the cafe] I found it completely by accident, but if you ever get to visit Edinburgh it’s a nice place to stop for a coffee and bite to eat for a rest from sightseeing, and you get to say you’ve been to where Harry Potter was written.
Another place which can be seen from the Cafe is Greyfriars Kirkyard [Scottish for Church and graveyard, pictured above], which has the grave of a man called Thomas Riddle who died in 1806, who some have rumoured to be the inspiration for the name of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it is a huge coincidence if it’s not, as it also commemorates his son, who shared the name Thomas Riddle, just like Voldemort shares the name with his father. It’s on one of the walls surrounding the graveyard, and some people even leave little notes. There’s also the grave of a poet called William ‘Topaz’ McGonagall nearby, who some people believe gave his surname to Professor McGonagall. If you go looking for these tombstones please be respectful of the fact that it is a graveyard, surrounding a church where people go to worship.
Though this isn’t the only reason Greyfriars is famous, it has several other interesting things associated with it. Firstly, that of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who became the inspiration for a Disney film. You’ll find a tombstone in front of the church for Greyfriars Bobby, and people often bring sticks and dog toys to lay in front of it. The Disney film may not be as true as it claims though, so look up the Wikipedia entry for it and decide for yourself.
Greyfriars also has a Covenanters Prison, stories of grave robbers, and a poltergeist associated with it (I won’t go into any more about them or I’ll start to ramble and get boring, so Google it if you want to know more). A lot of walking tours take you here, including a Ghost Tour called City of the Dead which starts outside St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile most nights. Go to their website for more details, and booking. Children 12 and over are welcome, but only with a responsible adult.
You can also go on Harry Potter walking tours called The Potter Trail. You can visit their website at http://www.pottertrail.com The tour starts next to a statue of Greyfriars Bobby, outside a pub called Greyfriars Bobby (which serves really nice food and is family friendly), which is next to Greyfriars Kirkyard, and it’s FREE, YES FREE!!!!!!! (although tips are welcome). Visit the website for days and times.
This is Edinburgh Castle, my favourite building in the whole world. I could spend hours talking about this place and all it’s history, but it’s so much more fun to find it all out for yourself. If you do go and want to visit it, you do have to pay to get in. Visit their website www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk for more details. You could spend all day exploring this place, well I could anyway, but I know I’m a nerdy Ravenclaw, but I think everyone would love it here. (The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter is on the other side of the castle from where this photo was taken, and to the right.)
If you’re a Tolkien fan, then you’ll love this place:
It’s called The Scott Tower, and is a monument for a Scottish author called Sir Walter Scott. The reason I think you’ll like it is because it’s always reminded me of Isengard in Lord of the Rings. It’s on Princess Street, near to Waverley Station (the main train station in Edinburgh). It cost £3 to get in and you can climb all the way to the top (you don’t have to book, just turn up). It’s also right next door to 2 buildings which hold national galleries and historical collections. Princess Street is also Edinburgh’s answer to London’s Oxford Street or New York’s 5th Avenue in terms of shopping.
Edinburgh is split into the Old Town and the New Town. The Old Town being the medieval part where the castle, royal palace of Holyrood (the Queen of England’s official residence in Scotland), and the Royal Mile are situated. The New Town was created as the city grew in the 18th century, and partly built on top of an old Loch (Scottish for Lake) that was used to dump all the Old Town’s waste and sewage into.
Edinburgh is a great place to visit at any time of year, but there are certain times of the year that are special for Edinburgh.
The first is during August, during the Edinburgh Festivals; the largest arts festival in the world. It takes over the whole city, and gets so busy you’ll need to book a hotel around Christmas time to get anywhere to stay. There are so many (FREE) street performances, and events/performances in theatres, pubs, galleries, parks, etc. you won’t be short of this to do. You can go to the following website www.eif.co.uk/visit-edinburgh/edinburghs-festivals#.VOTYqynZfwx for more information. Here are some photos of how busy it gets.
My favourite part of the festivals is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It takes place in front of the castle most evenings, and gets sold out every year, so you’ll have to book your tickets way in advance via their website (www.edintattoo.co.uk). It’s a great show, with military bands from all over the world, as well as Bagpipes from Scotland. I think Bagpipes are brilliant, so I go to this every time I’m there in August. The ticket office is next to Waverley train station, so if you buy tickets and choose to collect them rather than having them posted this is where to go. They also sell souvenirs.
Another really great time to visit Edinburgh is Hogmanay, which is what Scots call New Year. It’s a three day long New Years celebration. Most places in Scotland have some kind of Hogmanay celebration, so it doesn’t just have to be Edinburgh you visit this time of year.
At both of these times of the year Edinburgh gets really busy, so you need to book accommodation early as it’s not as big as London, so Hotels etc. get full very quickly.
Edinburgh, and Scotland, is full of so much History, and has a strong connection to Harry Potter/JK Rowling, plus Hogwarts is hidden somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, so it’s well worth a visit if you ever get the chance. It’s also really easy to get around the city (as long as you don’t mind hills), and public transport is really cheap. It’s also slightly cheaper than London for most other things to.
I hope you all enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it, because I could have gone on, and on, and on, even more but decided not to bore you.
“If London was an alien city, Edinburgh was another planet.” Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins.